America In Central Asia
Is Washington Really
'Withdrawing' From Afghanistan?
www.nlpwessex.org/docs/withdrawafgan.htm
The Goal Is The Establishment Of Permanent Bases
To Use Against Surrounding Powers


"Joe Glenton was the first British soldier to publicly refuse to go to Afghanistan. He raised his conscientious objection with his chain of command .... Conscientious objection wasn’t an easy option but he says he was too disillusioned with both the reasons for the war and the way it was being conducted to continue. ‘We’re told we’re going there to help young girls get an education or to build infrastructure or really hackneyed stuff like security there equals security here. Let’s look at probability. Does the US, with Britain in tow, go to Afghanistan to help women go to school or is it because there is, for example, 90 billion barrels of oil in the Caspian? ‘Is it human rights or is it because Afghanistan is in a strategic location with borders with China, Pakistan and Iran? Are we spreading democracy or is this power politics? It’s a new veneer on a very old practice.’"
Conscientious objector Joe Glenton on being jailed for refusing to fight
Metro, 15 May 2013

The Desire For Permanent Bases

'Surrounding Powers'
The Target Is Russia And China

"On Nov. 6, Mr. Eikenberry [US Embassador in Kabul] wrote: 'President Karzai is not an adequate strategic partner.... Karzai continues to shun responsibility for any sovereign burden, whether defense, governance or development. He and much of his circle do not want the U.S. to leave and are only too happy to see us invest further,' Mr. Eikenberry wrote. 'They assume we covet their territory for a never-ending ‘war on terror’ and for military bases to use against surrounding powers.'
U.S. Envoy’s Cables Show Worries on Afghan Plans
New York Times, 25 January 2010

"The war in Afghanistan has morphed. It's not about Al Qaeda any more. And it's not about the Taliban any more. It's about China, Russia, the soft underbelly - which is mostly Muslim - of Russia, about Pakistan, about Iran, about Syria, about Iraq, about whether Kurdistan is stood up or not, and ultimately about oil, water and energy in general. And the US presence in Afghanistan, I'll predict right now, will not go away for another half century."
Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, former Assistant to US Secretary of State Colin Powell
'This Ship is Sinking' Says Former Bush Official
Telesur, 11 December 2015

"Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Thursday he was ready to let the U.S. have nine bases in the country after the 2014 combat troop pullout, but wants Washington's 'security and economic guarantees' first. Speaking at a ceremony on Thursday at Kabul University, Karzai said Afghanistan is ready to sign a partnership agreement to that effect. Karzai says: 'When they (the U.S.) do this, we are ready to sign.' The remarks were the first time the Afghan leader had offered any insight into ongoing talks over a deal that would outline American presence in Afghanistan after 2014. CBS News Kabul bureau chief Mukhtar Ahmad reports that, according to Karzai, the U.S. wants to maintain bases in Kabul, Herat, Helmand, Shindand, Gardez, Mazar, Jalalabad, Kandahar and Bagram."
Karzai: U.S. wants to keep 9 bases in Afghanistan after 2014
CBS News, 9 May 2013

"In an exclusive interview with Geo News senior anchor, Hamid Mir, US Secretary of State John Kerry said terrorist groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Al-Qaeda were violating the sovereignty of Pakistan... He also told Hamid Mir that the US was decreasing and not completely withdrawing its forces from Afghanistan. 'Not every single soldier will leave in 2014. We have been very clear about that. We are not withdrawing we are drawing down.'
US decreasing not withdrawing forces from Afghanistan: Kerry
The News (Pakistan), 1 August 2013

"Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Tuesday that he was in talks with the United States about the possible establishment of permanent US military bases in his war-ravaged country. 'From the statements made by US officials, US senators to the media and from what they have told us, yes, they have this desire,' he said. 'This is an issue that we're in talks with them about.' But Karzai insisted that Afghanistan would have the final say on whether such bases would be allowed. In January, influential US senator Lindsey Graham reportedly suggested permanent US bases in Afghanistan. At that time, Karzai's spokesman Waheed Omer said the issue had not been discussed with the United States."
Karzai in talks with US on permanent Afghan bases
AFP, 8 February 2011

'A Stunning, Stunning Development'

"President Obama’s brain trust on Afghanistan does not know [how] much the U.S. spends on the war each year or the American cost in lost lives on the battlefield. This embarrassing lack of basic knowledge from State Department and Pentagon experts on Afghanistan at a House hearing Wednesday prompted even a Democrat to say he was stunned. The setting was the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The Issue: Afghanistan and the transition to fewer U.S. troops post-2014. The witnesses: James F. Dobbins, State’s special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan; Donald Sampler, assistant to the administrator, U.S. Agency for International Development, which provides civilian foreign aid; and Michael Dumont, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia. When it came time for Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, California Republican, to quiz the witnesses, he asked what he thought was a simple question: 'How much are we spending annually in Afghanistan? How much is the cost to the American taxpayer?' He was met with stone silence from the witness panel. Mr. Dobbins gestured to the other witnesses for the answer. They, too, came up empty. 'Anybody know?' Mr. Rohrabacker asked. 'Nobody knows the total budget, what we’re spending in Afghanistan. It’s a hearing on Afghanistan. Can I have an estimate?' 'I’m sorry, congressman,' Mr. Dobbins said. Mr. Rohrabacker called the lack of an answer 'disheartening.' 'How many killed and wounded have we suffered in the last 12 months,' he asked. Again, none of the three had an answer. Mr. Dumont said he would get back to him. 'We’re supposed to believe you fellows have a plan that is going to end up in a positive way in Afghanistan,' the congressman said. 'Holy cow.' Rep. Gerald Connolly, Virginia Democrat, said he was stunned. 'I say to the panel, Mr. Rohrabacker is right. How you can come to a congressional oversight hearing on this subject, with your titles and not know how much we're spending every year and not know how many casualties we incur this last year, I will say to [the] chairman of this committee, is actually a stunning, stunning development.'
Obama’s Afghanistan experts stumped on U.S. death toll, war costs during hearing
Washington Times, 12 December 2013


Afghanistan 'Withdrawal' News

"The military alliance has agreed to maintain troop levels and reiterated its funding pledge for Afghan security forces to 2020. The commitment will prolong what already has been by far NATO's longest military mission. NATO allies have promised that they will stump up around $1 billion (905 million euros) a year over the next three years to help fund the Afghan military, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Saturday. That would guarantee funding through 2020, but the NATO chief could not say when its longest military engagement might end. There are about 12,000 NATO troops in the country. "There's no reason to speculate exactly on how long it will continue. What we have seen is we are committed and we are ready to stay," Stoltenberg said from the summit in the Polish capital, Warsaw."
NATO extends mission in Afghanistan
DeutscheWelle, 9 July 2016

"The war in Afghanistan — America’s longest conflict — will grind on for at least another four years as NATO allies are prepared to commit $5 billion through 2020 to train, equip and pay Afghan security forces, according to a senior NATO diplomat. Last week, President Obama granted U.S. troops in Afghanistan expanded authority to attack Taliban insurgents. The new rules allow U.S. forces to advise regular Afghan combat units and to call in airstrikes. There are about 9,800 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, and Obama has pledged to reduce their number to 5,500 by year’s end. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the new, more aggressive approach put U.S. forces closer to the fight with the Taliban. The previous rules allowed, for example, for U.S. troops in Afghanistan to protect themselves and to aid Afghan forces in peril."
NATO plans for Afghan war through 2020
USA Today, 15 June 2016

"Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton said Friday she supports President Barack Obama's decision to keep 5,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan when he leaves the White House in 2017. Clinton said in an interview with CNN that Obama's moves were an example of "a leader who has strong convictions about what he would like to see happen but also pays attention to what's going on in the real world." The president had originally planned to keep only a small U.S. military presence by the end of his presidency. But military leaders have said the Afghans need more support from the U.S. to fight the Taliban and maintain gains made during the past 14 years."
Hillary Clinton Backs Obama's Move to Keep U.S. Forces in Afghanistan
Associated Press, 16 October 2015

"The UK is to extend the stay of its troops in Afghanistan, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has told MPs.   There are currently 450 British soldiers in Afghanistan, a level which will be maintained throughout 2016. The Ministry of Defence said the move comes after a review of the UK's commitment "in light of the performance" of Afghan security forces. The US has previously said it will maintain its military presence in Afghanistan beyond 2016. Britain ended combat operations in Afghanistan in October 2014, but kept troops in the country to advise and train Afghan security forces. The defence secretary said that the government "recognised it would take time" for the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces to "develop into a fully-fledged fighting force capable of providing complete security for the people of Afghanistan".
UK to extend Afghanistan troops' stay, says Fallon
BBC Online, 27 October 2015

"President Obama is seriously weighing a proposal to keep as many as 5,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan beyond 2016, according to senior U.S. officials, a move that would end his plans to bring U.S. troops home before he leaves office. The proposal presented in August by Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, then-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, would focus the remaining American force primarily on counterterrorism operations against the Islamic State, al-Qaeda and other direct threats to the United States. Obama has made no final decision on the plan, which was developed before the Taliban captured Kunduz in September; it was the first major city to fall to the Taliban since the war began in 2001. Afghan security forces, supported by American planes and combat advisers, have since been able to retake most, if not all, of the city."
Obama considering plan to leave significant force in Afghanistan
Washington Post, 5 October 2015

"U.S. and allied defence officials, increasingly wary of White House plans to scale back the U.S. presence in Afghanistan, are reviewing new drawdown options that include keeping thousands of American troops in the country beyond the end of 2016, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday. Citing U.S. and allied officials, the Journal said U.S. Army General John Campbell, the top international commander in Afghanistan, had sent five different recommendations to the Pentagon and to North Atlantic Treaty Organization officials. The options include keeping the current U.S. presence at or near 10,000; reducing it slightly to 8,000; cutting the force roughly in half; and continuing with current plans to draw down to a force of several hundred troops by the end of 2016, the Journal reported. Some officials worry that too large a cut could cause the Afghan government to come under increased pressure from the Taliban and other militants, the paper said. There has been no formal Pentagon recommendation on changes in the troop presence in Afghanistan, the Journal reported."
U.S., allies review Afghan pullback options - WSJ
Reuters, 25 September 2015

"Spending the American Fourth of July holiday weekend with the U.S. troops in Afghanistan has become an annual ritual for John McCain. The Arizona Republican and Senate Armed Services Committee chairman visited Kabul again this year to meet the forces as well as top Afghan leadership. McCain said he is suggesting that U.S. President Barack Obama re-evaluate conditions in Afghanistan and decide to keep open some of its military bases in the country beyond 2016. McCain has always been against what he calls a 'calendar-based withdrawal' from Afghanistan. He was also one of the lawmakers who joined Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s calls to slow down the pullout from Afghanistan."
US Senator McCain in Kabul, Asks US Bases Remain
Voice of America, 4 July 2015

"Britain is preparing to expand its military training mission in Iraq and increase the number of personnel helping ready the moderate Syrian opposition in Turkey, a British source familiar with the plan said on Sunday. The Ministry of Defence says nearly 800 British soldiers are already working in training and support roles in the region at a time when Islamic State militants are making gains in both Iraq and Syria. "The UK is preparing to offer more," the source told Reuters, saying London was keen to step up its contribution in response to events on the ground. A final decision had not yet been taken and was not imminent in the coming days, the source said, but Britain's presence would soon be expanded. British forces are already training Iraqi soldiers in, among other disciplines, how to deal with roadside bombs, while other British soldiers are taking part in U.S.-led efforts to train the moderate Syrian opposition in Turkey.When asked to confirm the expansion plans, a ministry spokesman said: "Nearly 800 UK personnel are deployed on operations in the region, helping Iraqis to strengthen and mobilise against ISIL and we will continue to keep our contribution under regular review.""
Britain is preparing to expand Iraq training mission - source
Reuters, 31 May 2015

"As Afghan forces try to fend off attacks by resurgent militants, the top coalition commander has been meeting with NATO leaders to hammer out details of a plan that could keep thousands of international advisers in the country for years to come. 'There is overwhelming support to do something' to continue to aid the Afghan security forces,' Gen. John Campbell, who commands both NATO’s Resolute Support mission as well as the American counterterrorism force in Afghanistan, told reporters in Kabul on Saturday. What exactly that 'something' is remains to be seen, but Campbell said some thirty countries have voiced support for a continued international mission in Afghanistan. NATO leaders have said they are planning for a civilian-led military mission to continue after the current training and advising-focused Resolute Support mission expires at the end of 2016. Campbell said as many as 1,000 troops supported by contractors and other civilians could remain in Afghanistan past 2016 to try to help Afghan security forces stave off attacks by Taliban and other insurgent groups."
Top general predicts longer international presence in Afghanistan
Stars and Stripes, 23 May 2015

"NATO Foreign Ministers decided today (13 May 2015) that the Alliance will maintain a presence in Afghanistan after the end of its current mission Resolute Support. 'Today, we took a major decision which shows that we stay committed to Afghanistan. We agreed that we will maintain a presence in Afghanistan, even after the end of our current mission, Resolute Support, " NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said at the end of a meeting of Foreign Ministers of NATO and partner countries contributing to the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission (RSM) in Antalya, Turkey. 'Our future presence will be led by civilians. It will have a light footprint. But it will have a military component,' he added. NATO's civilian and military authorities will now develop a plan for this continued NATO presence by this autumn."
NATO decides to maintain presence in Afghanistan
NATO Press Release, 13 May 2016

"The Obama administration is abandoning plans to cut the number of U.S. forces in Afghanistan to 5,500 by year's end, bowing to military leaders who want to keep more troops, including many into the 2016 fighting season, U.S. officials say. While no final decision on numbers has been made, the officials said the administration is poised to slow withdrawal plans and probably will allow many of the 9,800 American troops to remain well into next year. There also are discussions about keeping a steady number of counterterrorism troops into 2015, including options under which some would remain in the country or be nearby beyond 2016."
Officials: US to Keep Higher Level of Troops in Afghanistan
ABC News, 14 March 2015

"The United States is preparing to increase the number of troops it keeps in Afghanistan in 2015 to fill a gap left in the NATO mission by other contributing nations, according to three sources with direct knowledge of the situation. The final numbers are still being agreed, but there will be at least several hundred more than initially planned, one of the sources said. 'If they hadn't done that, the mission would have lost bases,' the source said. Under the U.S. commitment, described as a 'bridging solution' until other nations fulfill their pledges later in the year or the troops are no longer needed, Washington may provide up to 1,000 extra troops. That figure was confirmed by all three sources, who said the final number was still under discussion and depended on when other countries stepped forward with their commitments."
U.S. to leave more troops than first planned in Afghanistan: sources
Reuters, 25 November 2014

"U.S. President Barack Obama has signed a secret order authorizing a broader military mission in Afghanistan in 2015 than originally planned, the New York Times reported on Saturday. The decision ensures a direct role for American troops in fighting in Afghanistan for at least another year, it said, adding Obama’s decision was made during a White House meeting with national security advisers in recent weeks. In May, Obama said the American military would have no combat role in Afghanistan next year. Missions for the remaining 9,800 troops would be limited to training Afghan forces and to hunting the 'remnants of al Qaeda', he said."
Obama signs order expanding U.S. Afghanistan role: NYT
Reuters, 22 November 2014

"President Obama, declaring that it was 'time to turn the page on a decade in which so much of our foreign policy was focused on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq,' announced on Tuesday that he planned to withdraw the last American troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2016. Under a new timetable outlined by Mr. Obama in the Rose Garden, the 32,000 American troops now in Afghanistan would be reduced to 9,800 after this year. That number would be cut in half by the end of 2015, and by the end of 2016, there would be only a vestigial force to protect the embassy in Kabul and to help the Afghans with military purchases and other security matters. At the height of American involvement, in 2011, the United States had 101,000 troops in the country...Despite Mr. Obama’s attempt to signal the end of 13 years of American military engagement in Afghanistan, the United States will continue to have troops engaged in lethal counterterrorism operations there for at least two more years. The president also conceded that the United States would leave behind a deeply ambiguous legacy....Military commanders had recommended leaving at least 10,000 troops in Afghanistan for several years after the formal end of the combat mission in 2014. Besides carrying out operations against the remnants of Al Qaeda, the troops that stay behind will train Afghan security forces. But from 2015 onward, they will be quartered at Bagram Airfield and in Kabul, the capital. While they will be supplemented by NATO troops, alliance members are likely to follow America’s lead in pulling out by the end of 2016.The unilateral nature of Mr. Obama’s announcement underscored the loss of trust between him and President Hamid Karzai, who has refused to sign a long-term security agreement with the United States. Any American deployments after 2014 will hinge on the Afghans’ signing the agreement, Mr. Obama said, though he noted that both candidates in the runoff election to replace Mr. Karzai have promised to do so."
U.S. Troops to Leave Afghanistan by End of 2016
New York Times, 27 May 2014

"In a stunning admission Tuesday afternoon, a senior White House official told reporters on a conference call that part of the continuing U.S. mission in Afghanistan will involve training security forces in that country to 'help us' defeat al-Qaeda – not the other way around. The White House has sought to assure the press that the U.S. role after 2014 would be reduced to what President Barack Obama called 'an advisory role' just an hour later. But the official's statement, which drew no follow-up inquiry from the few reporters permitted to ask questions, indicates that American forces will take on a more substantial part of Afghanistan's coming security needs. Obama said at the White House that 'one year ago Afghan security forces assumed the lead in combat operations,' and that 2014 will be 'the year we will conclude our combat mission in Afghanistan.' But his senior surrogate told a different story. 'We want to maintain a counterterrorism ability' there to keep al-Qaeda in check, he said. 'We're going to train Afghan security forces to help us in mitigating that threat.'.... Obama plans to leave 9,800 U.S. troops in Afghanistan at the end of the year, officially to continue training Afghan fighters for their longer-term battles with al-Qaeda and to stymie insurgent attacks.,... And the senior official said that by the end of 2016, one month before Obama leaves office, America's presence in Afghanistan will be reduced to an 'embassy presence with a security assistance office.' That opens up the possibility that Bagram Air Base, the sprawling 8-square-mile center of U.S. combat operations there, could be shuttered or turned over to Afghanistan. It could also be maintained with a skeleton crew in case the U.S. needed to return in force, according to a Pentagon analyst who spoke with MailOnline on background. However they are deployed, servicemen and women are likely to remain in harm's way. There are currently about 32,800 Americans serving in Afghanistan, down from a high of about 100,000 in the middle of 2010. Obama promised during his February 2013 State of the Union address to Congress that the U.S. effort there would draw to a close by the end of 2014...U.S. military personnel will only remain in the country if its president signs a Bilateral Security Agreement – something Hamid Karzai has resisted but his likely successors say they will embrace. That document is intended to formalize U.S. efforts to train Afghans and launch counterterrorism operations...Instead of a total withdrawal, the senior White House official confirmed, U.S. troop numbers would drop by half by the end of next year and dwindle near zero by the time Obama leaves office. Obama doubled down on his promise four months ago in his 2014 State of the Union address, this time promising that only a 'small force' would remain behind after 2014."
'Harder to end wars than it is to begin them': Obama will keep 9,800 US troops in Afghanistan after December despite State of the Union promise to have all troops out by end of this year
Mail, 27 May 2013

"The number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan may drop well below 10,000 - the minimum demanded by the U.S. military to train Afghan forces - as the longest war in American history winds down, Obama administration officials briefed on the matter say. Since Afghanistan's general election on April 5, White House, State Department and Pentagon officials have resumed discussions on how many American troops should remain after the current U.S.-led coalition ends its mission this year. The decision to consider a small force, possibly less than 5,000 U.S. troops, reflects a belief among White House officials that Afghan security forces have evolved into a robust enough force to contain a still-potent Taliban-led insurgency. The small U.S. force that would remain could focus on counter-terrorism or training operations. That belief, the officials say, is based partly on Afghanistan's surprisingly smooth election, which has won international praise for its high turnout, estimated at 60 percent of 12 million eligible votes, and the failure of Taliban militants to stage high-profile attacks that day. The Obama administration has been looking at options for a possible residual U.S. force for months. 'The discussion is very much alive,' said one U.S. official who asked not to be identified. 'They're looking for additional options under 10,000' troops. There are now about 33,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, down from 100,000 in 2011, when troop numbers peaked a decade into a conflict originally intended to deny al Qaeda sanctuary in Afghanistan after the September 11, 2001, attacks."
Exclusive: U.S. force in Afghanistan may be cut to less than 10,000 troops
Reuters, 21 April 2014

"In his final address to Afghanistan's parliament Saturday, President Hamid Karzai told the United States its soldiers can leave at the end of the year because his military, which already protects 93 percent of the country, was ready to take over entirely. He reiterated his stance that he would not sign a pact with the United States that would provide for a residual force of U.S. troops to remain behind after the final withdrawal, unless peace could first be established. The Afghan president has come under heavy pressure to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement, with a council of notables that he himself convened recommend that he sign the pact. The force would train and mentor Afghan troops, and some U.S. Special Forces would also be left behind to hunt down al-Qaida. All 10 candidates seeking the presidency in April 5 elections have said they would sign the security agreement. But Karzai himself does not appear to want his legacy to include a commitment to a longer foreign troop presence in his country. Karzai was brought to power in the wake of the 2001 U.S.-led invasion and subsequently won two presidential elections in 2004 and again in 2009. But he has in recent years espoused a combatative nationalism, with his hour-long speech Saturday no exception. 'I want to say to all those foreign countries who maybe out of habit or because they want to interfere, that they should not interfere,' he said. Karzai said the war in Afghanistan was 'imposed' on his nation, presumably by the 2001 invasion, and told the United States it could bring peace to Afghanistan if it went after terrorist sanctuaries and countries that supported terrorism, a reference to Pakistan. Pakistan has a complicated relationship with the Taliban. It backed the group before their 2001 overthrow, and although now it is at war with its own militants, Afghan insurgents sometimes find refuge on its territory."
Karzai says Afghanistan doesn't need US troops
Associated Press, 16 March 2014

"President Barack Obama has warned his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai that the US may pull all of its troops out of his country by the year's end. Mr Obama conveyed the message in a phone call to Mr Karzai, who has refused to sign a security agreement. The US insists this agreement must be in place before it commits to leaving some troops behind for counter-insurgent operations and training. The US has had troops in Afghanistan since 2001 when it toppled the Taliban."
US planning full Afghan pullout, Obama tells Karzai
BBC Online, 25 February 2014

"One of the four options President Obama is considering for a U.S. military presence in Afghanistan beyond this year would leave behind 3,000 troops, based in Kabul and at the American installation at Bagram, U.S. officials said. Military commanders have recommended 10,000 troops, with more installations across the country. But the military has spent the past several months studying what kind of reduced counterterrorism and training operations it could conduct under the smaller option, which some in the White House favor. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel plans to brief his NATO counterparts in Brussels this week on the status of U.S. decision making. A senior administration official said that no announcement of specific troop numbers was planned but added that “we’ll have to tell people where we stand in our thinking and planning.” During a December visit to Kabul, Hagel suggested that the late-February NATO meeting was a “cutoff point” for Afghan President Hamid Karzai to sign the bilateral security agreement that sets the terms for a post-2014 U.S. presence. Although the accord was finalized in the fall, Karzai has since refused to sign it, leaving the administration to delay its decision on numbers while threatening a complete pullout when the last combat troops leave at the end of the year. “Nothing’s changed about our desire to get .... [an] agreement, because without one, we’re going to have to start planning for a complete withdrawal,” Rear Adm. John F. Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, said Thursday. Conversations with Karzai about the agreement have largely ceased, one U.S. official said. “We’ve taken the position that we shouldn’t harass him anymore, because it doesn’t get us anywhere,” the official said. Instead, administration officials are in close contact with leading candidates for Afghanistan’s April election to replace Karzai, all of whom have said they would sign the agreement."
U.S. examines Afghanistan option that would leave behind 3,000 troops
Washington Post, 23 February 2014

"One of the four options President Obama is considering for a U.S. military presence in Afghanistan beyond this year would leave behind 3,000 troops, based in Kabul and at the American installation at Bagram, U.S. officials said. Military commanders have recommended 10,000 troops, with more installations across the country. But the military has spent the past several months studying what kind of reduced counterterrorism and training operations it could conduct under the smaller option, which some in the White House favor. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel plans to brief his NATO counterparts in Brussels this week on the status of U.S. decision making. A senior administration official said that no announcement of specific troop numbers was planned but added that 'we’ll have to tell people where we stand in our thinking and planning.' During a December visit to Kabul, Hagel suggested that the late-February NATO meeting was a 'cutoff point' for Afghan President Hamid Karzai to sign the bilateral security agreement that sets the terms for a post-2014 U.S. presence. Although the accord was finalized in the fall, Karzai has since refused to sign it, leaving the administration to delay its decision on numbers while threatening a complete pullout when the last combat troops leave at the end of the year. 'Nothing’s changed about our desire to get .... [an] agreement, because without one, we’re going to have to start planning for a complete withdrawal,' Rear Adm. John F. Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, said Thursday. Conversations with Karzai about the agreement have largely ceased, one U.S. official said. 'We’ve taken the position that we shouldn’t harass him anymore, because it doesn’t get us anywhere,' the official said. Instead, administration officials are in close contact with leading candidates for Afghanistan’s April election to replace Karzai, all of whom have said they would sign the agreement."
U.S. examines Afghanistan option that would leave behind 3,000 troops
Washington Post, 23 February 2014

"Is Hamid Karzai crazy? On the face of it, the Afghan President has said lots of odd, inflammatory and contradictory things. Over the past year, he has criticized the U.S., wondered whether its presence in Afghanistan has done any good at all, refused to sign an Afghanistan-U.S. security pact and called members of the Taliban his brothers. This week the New York Times revealed that he has been conducting secret negotiations with the Taliban. What can he be thinking? Maybe Karzai is looking at what happened to one of his predecessors. In 1989 the Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan. The President it had backed, Mohammad Najibullah, stayed in power, but within months a civil war broke out, forcing him to seek refuge in a U.N. compound. In 1996 the Taliban rode into Kabul, captured Najibullah, denounced him as a foreign puppet, castrated him, dragged his body through the streets and then hung him from a traffic barricade. For good measure, they did the same to his brother. That year was a gruesome replay of an earlier piece of Afghan history that Karzai also knows well. During their 19th century invasion of Afghanistan, the British put in place a local puppet, Shah Shuja, who was assassinated after their withdrawal. In fact, as the historian William Dalrymple has pointed out, Karzai comes from the same tribe as Shah Shuja--and the Taliban come from the tribe that brought down Shah Shuja in 1842."
Karzai's Not-So-Crazy End Game
TIME, 17 February 2014

"The Taliban called on Afghans to expel the United States from Afghanistan on Saturday just as they said Afghan mujahideen fighters had done to Soviet forces 25 years ago to the day. In a statement issued on the 25th anniversary of the final Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, a national holiday for Afghans, the Taliban sought to connect the steady departure of U.S. and NATO troops ahead of a year-end deadline to the end of the decade-long Soviet occupation. Today America is facing the same fate as the former Soviets and trying to escape from our country,' the Taliban said in a statement emailed to reporters by Qari Yousef Ahmadi, a spokesman for the group. 'The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is calling on its people to deal with today's invaders the same they did with the yesterday's invaders,' he said, using the name the Taliban government used during its repressive 1996-2001 rule. In line with the so-called Geneva accords, a last convoy of Soviet soldiers crossed a bridge connecting northern Afghanistan with the then-Soviet Union on February 15, 1989. 'We want to remind the Americans that we did not accept invaders with their sweet and nice slogans in the past. We eliminated them from the world map. God willing, your destiny will be the same,' the statement said. While U.S. and NATO forces in recent years have pushed Taliban militants out of many areas of their southern homeland, they appear to be dug in across remote areas along the rugged Afghanistan-Pakistan border and insurgent violence continues. The United Nations said last week that civilian deaths rose in 2013 as fighting intensifies between Taliban militants and government forces that are taking over from foreign troops. Uncertainty about whether a modest force of foreign troops will stay beyond a year-end deadline continues due to Afghan President Hamid Karzai's refusal to sign a security deal with the United States that would permit some troops to stay."
Twenty-five years after Soviet exit, Taliban says U.S. will meet same fate
Reuters, 15 February 2014

"Afghanistan would slide into a bloody civil war if the US-led coalition forces walked away without cutting a peace deal with a medley of resistance groups in the war-torn country, says an elusive Afghan warlord and former prime minister. The warning from Engineer Gulbuddin Hekmatyar – who also heads the Hizb-e-Islami Afghanistan (HIA) — came as foreign forces prepare to pull out after fighting a bloody and costly war for 12-plus years. So far, the United States and its allies have failed to make peace with the Taliban or any other militia. 'If the Nato forces withdraw without [striking] a [peace] accord with Mujahideen, there is a strong possibility that Afghanistan will experience a bitter and bloody repeat of what had happened following the pullout of Soviet troops [in 1989],' Hekmatyar told The Express Tribune in an exclusive interview on Sunday. The questions were sent to him through his representatives. Afghanistan had slid into a bloody civil war after the withdrawal of Soviet troops which had claimed thousands of lives and caused colossal destruction, especially in Kabul. Factional fighting paved the way for the emergence of the Taliban who took over Kabul in 1996 and ruled the country until their regime was toppled by the US-led coalition in 2001. 'Statements from US generals indicate that they want to keep some troops [in Afghanistan] post 2014 and maintain control over nine military bases. This only means a ‘permanent invasion’ which will result in a continuation of the war,' said Hekmatyar, who leads the second largest armed group after the Taliban. Asked about the role of neighbours, especially of Pakistan, in the Afghan imbroglio, Hekmatyar regretted that the neighbouring countries had helped the US in invading Afghanistan. 'Unfortunately, our neighbours supported the United States. The Pakistani and Iranian support was more harmful. The Americans could neither invade Afghanistan so easily nor stay here until today. They [Pakistan and Iran] must compensate for their historic mistake,' he added. 'If they do not accept the presence of foreign troops [in their own countries], then they should also recognise our right to reject military presence of invaders [in our country].' When asked about the failure of the Qatar initiative, Hekmatyar said the Taliban have been holding overt and covert and direct and indirect talks with the Americans in Qatar, Germany, Dubai and Pakistan. 'We don’t see any logic in the Taliban’s stance of pursuing dialogue after the White House announced that it would keep some troops and military bases in Afghanistan post-2014,' he said. He also criticised the Taliban for opening a ‘political office’ in the Gulf state of Qatar – a country which, according to Hekmatyar, is considered a major strategic base of the United States. Hekmatyar said his political party, HIA, refused to pursue peace talks after the US started seeking permanent military bases in Afghanistan. Asked about the possibility of a rapprochement between the HIA and the Taliban to avoid possible factional fighting in the future, Hekmatyar said that so far his party has no peace deal with the Taliban. 'We have made several attempts for reconciliation with the Taliban but to no avail. We cannot hold talks with the Taliban unless they produce their commanders who martyred Hizb-e-Islami people in Maidan-e-Wardag province. Hizb people had been invited for talks but were martyred there,' he said. Hekmatyar said his party would play an active role in the upcoming presidential elections in Afghanistan and would soon announce support for a candidate who would be the best among all 11 candidates. He said his party would also support candidates in provincial council elections on April 5.... Although Hekmatyar doesn’t expect a fair presidential election in the presence of foreign forces, he said his party wanted every Afghan to reject all corrupt politicians and foreign stooges. 'Hizb-e-Islami will not leave the political field open,' he added."
Bloody déjà vu: Hekmatyar raises spectre of 1990s-like civil war
The Express Tribune, 27 January 2014

"President Hamid Karzai has frequently lashed out at the U.S. military for causing civilian casualties in its raids. But behind the scenes, he has been building a far broader case against the Americans, suggesting that they may have aided or conducted shadowy insurgent-style attacks to undermine his government, according to senior Afghan officials. Karzai has formalized his suspicions with a list of dozens of attacks that he believes the U.S. government may have been involved in, according to one palace official. The list even includes the recent bomb and gun assault on a Lebanese restaurant in Kabul, one of the bloodiest acts targeting the international community in Afghanistan, the official said. The attack, which left 21 people dead, including three Americans, was almost universally attributed to the Taliban. But Karzai believes it was one of many incidents that may have been planned by Americans to weaken him and foment instability in Afghanistan, according to the senior palace official, who is sympathetic to the president’s view and spoke on the condition of anonymity. He acknowledged that his government had no concrete evidence of U.S. involvement and that the American role had not been formally confirmed..... The revelation of Karzai’s list helps explain why it has been so hard to conclude a security agreement that would leave thousands of U.S. troops in Afghanistan after the formal end of American military operations this year. Many U.S. and Afghan officials believe that accord is vital to this country’s long-term stability, but the Afghan leader has not signed it..... The senior palace official said that the president began keeping the list several years ago to catalogue what were seen as suspicious incidents that might involve the U.S. government and that he added a slew of new ones over the past year....The one point both the Afghan and American sides seem to agree on is that relations have deteriorated during the last months of Karzai’s presidency. Congress recently sharply curtailed development aid and military assistance plans for Afghanistan ahead of the U.S. pullout."
Karzai suspects U.S. is behind insurgent-style attacks, Afghan officials say
Washington Post, 27 January 2014

"President Hamid Karzai appeared to stiffen his resolve on Saturday not to sign a security pact with Washington, saying the US should leave Afghanistan unless it could restart peace talks with the Taliban. 'In exchange for this agreement, we want peace for the people of Afghanistan. Otherwise, it's better for them to leave and our country will find its own way,' Karzai told a news conference.  The president said pressing ahead with talks with the Taliban was critical to ensure that Afghanistan was not left with a weak central government. 'Starting peace talks is a condition because we want to be confident that after the signing of the security agreement, Afghanistan will not be divided into fiefdoms,' he said.  Most diplomats now agree that Karzai is unlikely to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) that would allow for some form of US military presence in Afghanistan after the end of 2014, when most troops are due to leave. Along with reviving peace talks with the Taliban, Karzai is also demanding an end to all US military operations on Afghan homes and villages, including strikes by pilotless drones. The US has threatened to pull all of its troops out unless a deal is signed in good time, but embassies are examining alternative solutions behind the scenes that would enable the Nato-led mission to remain. Karzai's defiant tone struck a chord with those in the west who have already decided that further discussion with the Afghan president may be pointless and waiting for his successor to be elected is the best option. 'The more people speak about it being signed after the election, the more irrelevant he becomes,' said one diplomat. 'Sad as it is, we might have to bank on the next guy.'  But representatives from some countries say this would not leave enough time for them to prepare for a post-2014 mission. Afghans are due to vote in a presidential election on 5 April, but it could take weeks for Karzai's successor to assume power if a run-off round is required.' Karzai initially agreed to a text of the pact in November and an assembly of elders called on him to sign it. But he has since refused to sign. In his comments to reporters, the Afghan president also denounced the use of advertising – some paid for by the US – that lobbies for signature of the BSA.  'To harm the psyche and soul of the people of Afghanistan, there is serious propaganda going on,' said Karzai, referring to the advertisements broadcast for weeks by local media but now taken off the air. 'No pressure, no threat, no psychological war can force us to sign the BSA.  If they want to leave, they should leave today. We will continue our living.'"
Hamid Karzai toughens stance on Afghanistan security deal with US
Guardian, 25 January 2014

"Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai has refused to sign a security deal with the United States, the White House said, opening up the prospect of a complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from the strife-torn nation next year. Karzai told U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice in Kabul on Monday that the United States must put an immediate end to military raids on Afghan homes and demonstrate its commitment to peace talks before he would sign a bilateral security pact, Karzai's spokesman said.... The complete withdrawal, called the 'zero option', would be similar to the pull-out of U.S. troops from Iraq two years ago. On Sunday, an assembly of Afghan elders, known as the Loya Jirga, endorsed the security pact, but Karzai suggested he might not sign it until after national elections next spring. The impasse strengthens questions about whether any U.S. and NATO troops will remain after the end of next year in Afghanistan, which faces a still-potent insurgency waged by Taliban militants and is still training its own military.... In Afghanistan, there are still 47,000 American forces. The United States has been in discussions with Afghan officials about keeping a small residual force of about 8,000 troops there after it winds down operations next year. U.S. officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, have said the bilateral security deal with Afghanistan must be signed by year-end to begin preparations for a post-2014 presence. Rice, who made a three-day visit to Afghanistan to visit U.S. troops, told Karzai it was 'not viable' to defer signing the deal until after the election, the White House said....The Obama administration has not said when it would make a decision to abandon the talks and commit to pulling all of its troops out of Afghanistan at the end of 2014, as it did in Iraq."
U.S. says may pull out all troops as Afghan leader holds up deal
Reuters, 26 November 2013

"While many Americans have been led to believe the war in Afghanistan will soon be over, a draft of a key U.S.-Afghan security deal obtained by NBC News shows the United States is prepared to maintain military outposts in Afghanistan for many years to come, and pay to support hundreds of thousands of Afghan security forces. The wide-ranging document, still unsigned by the United States and Afghanistan, has the potential to commit thousands of American troops to Afghanistan and spend billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars....The 25-page 'Security and Defense Cooperation Agreement Between the United States of America and the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan' is a sweeping document, vague in places, highly specific in others, defining everything from the types of future missions U.S. troops would be allowed to conduct in Afghanistan, to the use of radios and the taxation of American soldiers and contractors. The bilateral security agreement will be debated this week in Kabul by around 2,500 village elders, academics and officials in a traditional Loya Jirga. While the Loya Jirga is strictly consultative, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has said he won’t sign it without the Jirga’s approval. The copy of the draft -- the full text is available here -- is dated July 25, 2013. As a working draft, it is particularly revealing because it shows the back and forth negotiations, as U.S. and Afghan officials added words and struck out paragraphs. The changes are marked by annotations still revealed in the text. The document is a work in progress. US officials say there have been more changes since July. The draft, however, does indicate the scope of this possible agreement with major implications for Washington, Kabul, U.S. troops and the continuation of America’s longest war. Taken as a whole, the document describes a basic U.S.-Afghan exchange. Afghanistan would allow Washington to operate military bases to train Afghan forces and conduct counter-terrorism operations against al-Qaeda after the current mission ends in 2014. For that foothold in this volatile mountain region wedged between Pakistan and Iran, the United States would agree to sustain and equip Afghanistan's large security force, which the government in Kabul currently cannot afford. The deal, according to the text, would take effect on Jan. 1, 2015 and 'shall remain in force until the end of 2024 and beyond.' It could be terminated by either Washington or Kabul with two years advance written notice. There is however what U.S. officials believe is a contradiction in the July draft, which would effectively ask American troops to provide training and confront al-Qaeda from the confines of bases. While it says operations against al-Qaeda may be necessary, it also says US troops will not be allowed to make arrests or enter Afghan homes....The document doesn’t specifically say how many U.S. and NATO troops would remain in Afghanistan beyond 2014. Afghan officials tell NBC News they hope it will be 10 to 15 thousand. U.S. officials tell NBC News the number is closer to seven to eight thousand, with an additional contribution from NATO. Factoring in troop rotations, home leave, and breaks between deployments, the service of tens of thousands of American troops would be required to maintain a force of seven to eight thousand for a decade or longer. The anticipated costs would likely run into the billions quickly....While the document specifically says the United States would not seek 'permanent bases' in Afghanistan, the US military would have 'access to and use of the agreed facilities and areas.' Some of these areas would be for the 'exclusive use' of US troops. 'Afghanistan hereby authorizes United States forces to exercise all rights and authorities within the agreed facilities and areas that are necessary for their use, operation, defense, or control, including the right to undertake new construction works,' the document says. US troops would be allowed to carry weapons, wear uniforms and guard the perimeter of those areas. The agreement does not say how many 'exclusive use' sites there would be in Afghanistan. The United States also would also be permitted to keep vehicles and aircraft in Afghanistan, take off and land from Afghan soil, and fly though Afghan airspace."
Endless Afghanistan? US-Afghan agreement would keep troops in place and funds flowing, perhaps indefinitely
NBC News, 19 November 2013

"Afghanistan's opium production surged to record levels this year - making a mockery of Tony Blair's key argument for invading the country. Cutting the supply of heroin, which is made from opium, was one of the main reasons given by then-prime minister Mr Blair in 2001 for sending in British troops. But despite international efforts over the past decade to wean the country off the narcotics trade, the May harvest of opium was 49 per cent higher than last year. That month alone produced a staggering 6,060 tons of the drug, more than the combined output of the rest of the world, according to a U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) report. In a passionate speech three weeks after the 9/11 attacks, Mr Blair said: ‘The arms the Taliban are buying today are paid for by the lives of young British people buying their drugs on British streets. 'This is another part of their regime we should seek to destroy.’ But despite Britain spending billions of pounds and a conflict which has cost hundreds of lives, today's figures showed that even Afghan provinces with some past successes in combating poppy cultivation had seen those trends reversed. The withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan next year is likely to make matters even worse, said Jean-Luc Lemahieu, the UNODC regional representative in Kabul."
Blair's reason for war in Afghanistan collapses as opium production in the country reaches its highest ever levels ahead of NATO troops' withdrawal
Mail, 13 November 2013

"The view that the United States is going to withdraw from Afghanistan is a bit exaggerated, since their troops will remain in at least six bases currently prepared for them. That's according to our guest Salman Khurshid, the foreign minister of India."
'The US not really leaving Afghanistan' - Indian foreign minister
RT, 11 October 2013

"US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Monday he hoped an accord on the future US military presence in Afghanistan would be in place by November, despite President Hamid Karzai’s refusal to be rushed. 'I hope we’ll have that agreement by the end of October, because we just can’t move without it,' Hagel told US soldiers participating in a live-fire exercise in South Korea. The United States plans to pull out the bulk of its 57,000 troops in Afghanistan by the end of 2014 and has tentative plans to retain a smaller force of around 10,000 forces after that. But a new security agreement is needed to allow for the post-2014 presence, including provisions allowing the United States access to various bases. 'We’re working with President Karzai and his government to get that bilateral security agreement completed and signed,' Hagel said. 'Once we do that, we can and will go forward. That’s critically important,' he added. But Karzai has insisted Afghanistan would not be rushed over the negotiations and has even hinted that an agreement might not be finalised before presidential elections in April next year. 'We are not in a hurry, if it happens in my government it will be good, if not, the new president can discuss it and either accept or reject it,' Karzai said in August."
Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel seeks deal to keep 10,000 troops in Afghanistan
AFP, 30 September 2013

"With a subtle motion of the hand China took away the Turkmenistan – Afghanistan – Pakistan – India (TAPI) pipeline project from USA and became yesterday the chief controller of gas resources in Central and South Asia. Somebody else’s ideas and plans have been expropriated by means of contract for sale of 25 bn cu m of gas per year concluded between State Concern Turkmengas and Chinese Company CNPC. The deal will increase the total volume of Turkmen gas supplied to China up to 65 bn cu m. At the same time the agreement is achieved on the planned new direction of Turkmenistan – China pipeline (D direction) for additional supplies. Gas agreements enabled Xi Jinping, the General Secretary of PRC and Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, the President of Turkmenstan, to adopt mutual Declaration on establishment of strategic partnership relations between Turkmenistan and PRC. The Declaration was supported by the agreement between Turkmengas and State Bank of Development of China on cooperation in financing the second stage of Galkynysh gas field development, as well as by the contract between Turkmengas and CNPC on designing and construction of plant producing commercial gas in volume of 30 bn cu m annually at the gas field Galkynysh. Galkynysh as one of the largest field in the world must have become raw materials base for TAPI gas pipeline together with the Dovletabad field. By gaining control over the raw materials base China in fact is getting hold of TAPI and it seems that USA were ready for such development of situation and don’t mind it. To some extent it’s even more convenient for Washington if China as earlier USSR would get stuck in Afghan mayhem. Earlier the project of construction of gas pipeline TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India) has been de facto blocked by the United States: the Government of Afghanistan has postponed the construction tender on TAPI project without mentioning the exact terms of tender postponement. The reason for postponement was Afghan government’s preparation for the withdrawal of troops of the U.S. and NATO out of the country in 2014. The earlier-drawn consultants made a feasibility study of the project, presentation of which was appointed for 22-23 November. Today, it is still unclear whether the presentation will be held in fixed terms. Work-financing U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) previously hurried the consultants in connection with the plans of withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. As a result, as consultants had feared, the uncertainty associated with the withdrawal of troops, influenced the timing of the TAPI construction start. The $7.6 billion agreement for the supply of gas from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan, Pakistan and India was signed on the project. It was planned that gas deliveries via pipeline system TAPI will begin in December 2014. Supplies are unlikely to begin in fixed terms.World’s leading companies, including Agip and Halliburton, claimed to carry out engineering works. At least 37 million cu m of gas will be delivered daily via TAPI. Drawings of the pipeline were made by American engineers. TAPI pipeline will be laid in a deserted mountainous terrain. Its security will be provided from the air."
China took away the Turkmenistan – Afghanistan – Pakistan – India pipeline from USA
ABC.az, 5 September 2013

"In an exclusive interview with Geo News senior anchor, Hamid Mir, US Secretary of State John Kerry said terrorist groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Al-Qaeda were violating the sovereignty of Pakistan... He also told Hamid Mir that the US was decreasing and not completely withdrawing its forces from Afghanistan. 'Not every single soldier will leave in 2014. We have been very clear about that. We are not withdrawing we are drawing down.'
US decreasing not withdrawing forces from Afghanistan: Kerry
The News (Pakistan), 1 August 2013

"The United States is unlikely to be forced into a 'zero option' of withdrawing all troops from Afghanistan after 2014, but Afghan President Hamid Karzai must understand that a bilateral security pact is necessary for them to stay, U.S. officials said. The comments come days after the New York Times reported that President Barack Obama is seriously weighing the 'zero option' that would end U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan amid tensions with Karzai. Kabul suspended talks on a security agreement with the United States after a dispute over the opening of a Taliban office in Qatar for proposed peace talks involving the United States.... In Afghanistan, there are still 60,000 American forces, but that number will fall to 34,000 by early next year. The United States is in discussions with Afghan officials about keeping a small residual force there of perhaps 8,000 troops. At the Pentagon, where military commanders have made the case time and time again for keeping American forces in Afghanistan for years to come, the possibility of a zero-option cannot be ruled out if Kabul balks on a bilateral security agreement (BSA), officials say. 'It is in the best interest for the United States and Afghanistan to have an enduring military relationship post-2014,' a U.S. defence official told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity. 'That said, a BSA is imperative to any sort of post-2014 presence.' Senior Afghan figures close to Karzai said they were sceptical that Washington would consider a complete withdrawal..... Dobbins said the leak about the 'zero option', as far as he could tell, was intended as a negotiating ploy to leverage Kabul and acknowledgement that the public discussion on the issue was 'unhelpful.'... Meanwhile, plans for peace talks between the United States and the Taliban have stalled since the row over the opening of the Taliban office in the Qatari capital, Doha. Karzai became enraged at the United States after the Taliban hoisted a flag and a plaque in their new office that bore the name of the 'Political Office of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan,' the name the Taliban used for the country when they controlled it."
U.S. says 'zero option' on Afghanistan unlikely
Reuters, 11 July 2013

"According to the Iranian Press TV, a US military base in Afghanistan, close to the Iranian borders, is under construction. The new base is located in an area known as Chahlang in Farah Province. On 9 May, the President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai revealed that the US is in talks with his government in order to retain nine permanent bases after the withdrawal of the American forces. However, after two days, the White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, denied Karzai’s comments that the US is seeking permanent bases in his country."
US military base close to Iran?
New Europe, 16 May 2013

"The US and its allies will retain a presence in Afghanistan big enough to bolster Afghan forces after the withdrawal of international combat troops at the end of 2014, the recently retired commander in Afghanistan, General John Allen, said on Monday. Speaking in Washington, Allen said he had never been asked to produce a report on the so-called 'zero option' – the suggestion that no American troops would remain after the 2014 deadline, floated by one White House adviser in January. Instead, Allen said that he expected that Obama would approve a force that would be commensurate with ensuring that the Afghan security forces could be properly supported. Obama is currently considering how many troops are to be left behind, mostly in an advisory capacity, after the official withdrawal in 2014. Speculation on the size of the force ranges from about 6,000 through to 20,000."
US troops will stay in Afghanistan to support local forces, Allen insists
Guardian, 25 March 2013

"The US Defense Department has prepared plans for a smaller presence in Afghanistan after the White House insisted on examining the option of leaving fewer troops in the country after 2014 than was initially proposed, The Wall Street Journal reported. The newspaper said the plans now prepared by the Pentagon call for leaving roughly 3,000, 6,000 or 9,000 US troops in the country. Those troops would launch strikes against militants and continue training the Afghan army and police, who will be responsible for national security more than a decade after a US-led alliance ousted the Taliban regime in 2001. US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said the slimmed-down force would focus on preventing Al-Qaeda, which was sheltered by the 1996-2001 Taliban government, from regaining a foothold in the war-shattered nation. General John Allen, commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, had earlier suggested leaving 6,000 to 15,000 US troops, the Journal pointed out."
Pentagon prepares plans for ‘up to 9,000 troops in Afghanistan’ after 2014
AFP, 5 January 2013

"Gen John Allen, the senior US commander in Afghanistan, has submitted his much awaited recommendations on the nature and strength of US presence in the country after 2014, the Pentagon said on Wednesday. While Pentagon Press Secretary George Little refused to divulge the number of US troops in Afghanistan post 2014 as recommended by General Allen, The New York Times quoting unnamed defence official reported to the figure to be between 6,000 and 20,000 troops. 'General Allen offered Defence Secretary Leon E Panetta three plans with different troop levels: 6,000, 10,000 and 20,000, each with a risk factor probably attached to it, a senior military official said,' The New York Times said. 'An option of 6,000 troops would probably pose a higher risk of failure for the American effort in Afghanistan, 10,000 would be medium risk and 20,000 would be lower risk,' the daily said quoting unnamed defence official. However, the Pentagon refused to give any figure to the recommendations. 'Whatever that number is for post 2014 enduring presence, the decision would be taken in close consultations with our Afghan allies,' he said. 'We hope to be able to reach the decision soon. Again this is a decision that would be made on the US side by the president,' Little said."
'6,000 to 20,000 US troops in Afghan after 2014'
Rediff (India), 3 January 2013

"There once was a time when President Obama implied that the Afghanistan war would at least start to end in July 2011. Then that date got pushed back to 2014. Now, the general in charge of training Afghan forces to take over for departing Americans pegs that date closer to 2016 or 2017 — that is, if the U.S. doesn’t want the entire Afghan security apparatus to implode. What will ensure Afghan soldiers don’t collapse? 'Strategic patience and an enduring commitment,' Lt. Gen. William Caldwell told a crowd at the Brookings Institution in Washington. Translated from the mil-speak: many more years and billions of dollars. Asked by Danger Room how much longer the training mission needs to last, Caldwell replied, 'We won’t complete doing what we need to do until about 2016, 2017.'.... Caldwell might have just delivered some real talk about what it takes to build an army and a police force from scratch. But even so, he essentially moved the goalposts at least two years beyond NATO’s December 2014 target date for putting the Afghans in charge of their own security. Not that 2014 should be mistaken for a date at which the war ends: senior administration officials are quietly negotiating long-term basing accords with Afghanistan. But Caldwell said that the Afghan air force won’t be ready patrol the skies until 2016 at the earliest."
Six More Years: U.S. General Wants to Train Afghans Until ‘2017'
Wired, 6 June 2011

"A friend still in a senior position in the FCO has informed me there will be no substantive British withdrawal from Afghanistan until 2015 at the earliest. According to a strategy paper classified Secret, carried out for the Cabinet overseas and defence committee, it is essential to retain Karzai in power until his term in office ends, to restore stability to the country. While that is official paper speak, my friend (who is not enamoured of this policy) says that the real thinking is that if Karzai falls from power after our withdrawal, we will be seen to have 'Lost' the war, while the overriding aim in Whitehall and in Washington is to get out in circumstances in which we can claim victory. The official judgement is that the loyalty of Afghan government forces is at best dubious, while they remain riven by ethnic dissension and still contain a huge over-representation of Tajiks and Uzbeks, especially at officer level. In the FCO’s view, Karzai would not last for days if NATO forces withdrew and indeed would flee very quickly rather than try to retain power. He is just not interested in being in Afghanistan without a US army to sustain his looting. That rather knocks on the head the various efforts we have made for a negotiated settlement, for which we regard Karzai remaining in power as an essential outcome. Karzai’s predecessors as modern Afghan rulers installed by foreign invaders – Shah Shujah by the British and Dr Najibullah by the Soviets – were both murdered once their sponsors left. The coalition government in the UK apparently believes that the sharp reduction in the casualty rate among UK forces has removed public pressure for an earlier withdrawal. The Obama administration has give firm assurances to Karzai that a high level US and NATO military occupation will remain in place until after the end of his term of office."
No End To Afghan War
Craig Murray Blog, 10 May 2011

"The United States has reached a secret agreement with the Taliban to give control of southern Afghanistan to the Taliban in return for a permanent U.S. military base in the area, according to an Afghan political expert.  In an interview with the Fars News Agency in Kabul on Saturday, Ghulam Jilani Zwak, who is the director of Afghanistan’s Strategic Research Center, said, 'The establishment of military bases in Afghanistan by the United States will not help create peace and security, but it will cause more stress.' He also stated that U.S. military and political leaders recently conducted secret negotiations with the Taliban about establishing a permanent military base in the country in return for the U.S. withdrawing its troops from the southern part of the country and allowing the Taliban to take over the region. Zwak stated, 'The proposal shows that the United States is willing to pay any price in order to establish a permanent military base in Afghanistan, even… recognition of the Taliban'.”
U.S. makes secret deal with Taliban
Tehran Times, 17 April 2011

"US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned allies on Thursday against a hasty withdrawal in Afghanistan, saying that 'political expediency' could benefit the Taliban. Speaking to foreign ministers from nations in the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, Clinton hailed their 'heroic sacrifices' and played down the July date set by President Barack Obama to start withdrawing US troops. 'We need to ensure that these sacrifices are not overtaken by political expediency and short-term thinking,' Clinton told the meeting in Berlin. 'We need to worry less about how fast we can leave and more about how we can help the Afghan people build on the gains of the past 15 months,' she said. Obama has tripled US troops in Afghanistan to around 100,000 since taking office in 2009 but had promised to begin a drawdown in July 2011. The nearly 10-year-old war has become unpopular with US voters, particularly Obama's base."
Clinton warns against hasty Afghan withdrawal
AFP, 14 April 2011

"U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has revealed that American soldiers would remain in Afghanistan, despite a planned troop withdrawal in 2014. Mr Gates was in the war-torn country to meet Afghan President Hamid Karzai  - specifically to discuss a timetable for the U.S. military withdrawal. While Mr Karzai would soon unveil framework for the handover of security responsibility to Afghan forces, Mr Gates told servicemen at the U.S military base in Bagram that both the U.S. and Afghan governments agreed the American military should remain in the country after 2014 to help train and advise Afghan forces."
Defence secretary admits U.S. troops will still be in Afghanistan after 2014 withdrawal deadline
Mail, 8 March 2011

"Afghan President Hamid Karzai confirmed Tuesday that the United States are seeking to establish permanent bases in Afghanistan to target al-Qaeda and Taliban hideouts in the region. The bases would enable US troops to remain in the area beyond the planned transfer of security responsibility from US and NATO troops to Afghan forces by end of 2014, a process due to begin in the spring. Addressing a press conference in his fortified presidential palace, Karzai said that his government was negotiating with US officials on a range of strategic agreements, including the establishment of permanent military bases in Afghanistan. The president said that several US officials and senators had told him, 'Yes they want this (permanent bases) and we have been negotiating with them.' 'We believe that a long-term relationship with the United States is in the interest of Afghanistan,' Karzai said. He said he hoped for a relationship 'that brings security to Afghanistan, that brings economic prosperity to Afghanistan and an end to violence.' He did not give a date for finalizing the deal, but said any long-term partnership would need to be approved by the parliament and the Loya Jirga, the traditional assembly of tribal leaders. He also stressed that any long-term US bases would not be 'used as base against other countries and that Afghanistan is not a place from where our neighbours could be threatened.' Last month, US Senator Lindsey Graham in an interview to NBC news said he wanted President Barack Obama's administration to consider such permanent bases after NATO-led troops hand over security responsibility to Afghan forces in 2014."
Karzai confirms US seeking permanent Afghan bases
DPA, 9 February 2011

"Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Tuesday that he was in talks with the United States about the possible establishment of permanent US military bases in his war-ravaged country. 'From the statements made by US officials, US senators to the media and from what they have told us, yes, they have this desire,' he said. 'This is an issue that we're in talks with them about.' But Karzai insisted that Afghanistan would have the final say on whether such bases would be allowed. In January, influential US senator Lindsey Graham reportedly suggested permanent US bases in Afghanistan. At that time, Karzai's spokesman Waheed Omer said the issue had not been discussed with the United States."
Karzai in talks with US on permanent Afghan bases
AFP, 8 February 2011

"Afghanistan has become a lonely place for President Obama. One year ago today, the president delivered a seminal speech at West Point, N.Y., announcing the deployment of 30,000 additional U.S. servicemembers to Afghanistan and setting a timetable to begin withdrawing them in July 2011 — a combination calibrated to reassure those who saw the conflict as critical to U.S. security and those uneasy with an open-ended military conflict. Now, the administration is playing down the date combat troops will begin to come home and focusing instead on 2014 as the target for the pullout to be completed, conditions permitting. The new end date leaves Obama at odds with his Democratic base, which wants troops out faster, and with newly empowered Republican critics in Congress, who oppose deadlines and timetables altogether. It guarantees the war will be ongoing when Obama presumably runs for re-election in 2012. And if the military and political situations fail to improve in Afghanistan, the president could face a revolt in his own party and unrelenting fire from the GOP as he defends his leadership on what is already America's longest war. Just one in five Americans in a new USA TODAY/Gallup Poll agree with the 2014 timetable, one of Obama's lowest levels of support on any policy position.... As of last Saturday, U.S. forces have been fighting in Afghanistan longer than the Soviets did in the debilitating conflict that ended with their withdrawal from that nation in 1989. As of Monday, 1,320 American servicemembers had died in the conflict, which this year is costing taxpayers more than $320 million a day."
Obama's isolation grows on the Afghanistan war
USA Today, 1 December 2010

"A summit of Nato leaders in Lisbon, attended by Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, and Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general, agreed on a 'transition strategy' for Afghanistan which is to phase in the handover of the country's provinces to Afghan security forces from next year, completing the shift within four years. But while David Cameron and his ministers insisted that 2015 was a 'clear deadline' for an end to UK combat operations and the pullout of most British forces, Nato and UN leaders were much more guarded. 'We will not transition until our partners are ready,' said Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Nato secretary general. 'We will stay to finish the job ... The process must be conditions-based, not calendar-based. We have to make sure we don't leave Afghanistan prematurely.' Ban added: 'We must be guided by reality, not schedules'."
Nato maps out Afghanistan withdrawal by 2014 at Lisbon summit
Guardian, 20 November 2010

"Nato leaders agreed a plan to end the West’s war in Afghanistan over the next four years, pledging to make the Afghans responsible for their own security. The Prime Minister, David Cameron, said the transition deal would 'pave the way for British combat troops to be out of Afghan by 2015.'.....US officials insisted that the Nato transition plan did not guarantee an end to American combat operations. US forces could go on fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan even after transition ....Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Nato’s secretary-general, said: 'This process must be conditions-based and not calendar driven.' Diplomats privately accepted that Mr Cameron’s unconditional deadline jars with Nato’s conditional plan."
Lisbon: US and Britain differ over Afghan combat exit in 2014
Daily Telegraph, 20 November 2010

"Nato's secretary general warned on Monday that there was 'no alternative' to a prolonged frontline role in Afghanistan as the organisation prepared a phased withdrawal plan based on the US strategy in Iraq. Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that the Lisbon summit of Nato members that begins on Friday would commit the alliance to train and support Afghan troops battling the Taliban in substantial numbers through to the 2014 deadline for local forces to take over security. His comments came as Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan's president, said intrusive foreign military operations in Afghan communities were exacerbating the threat from the Taliban.... A blueprint drawn up by American officials sets out a step-by-step transfer of powers in Afghanistan that would be heavily supported by coalition troops. It has been reported that the blueprint envisages a period of up to two years from next summer to hand over nominal power to Afghan troops across the country. As with Iraq – where America maintains 50,000 troops, down from a peak of 150,000 three years ago – there would also be an even longer deployment of Nato forces for training and back up.... The Lisbon summit is one of the most important meetings of the alliance in decades. It will redefine what Nato does for the first time since the end of the Cold War."
Nato chief says there is no alternative to staying in Afghanistan
Daily Telegraph, 15 November 2010

"The Obama administration has decided to begin publicly walking away from what it once touted as key deadlines in the war in Afghanistan in an effort to de-emphasize President Barack Obama's pledge that he'd begin withdrawing U.S. forces in July 2011, administration and military officials have told McClatchy. The new policy will be on display next week during a conference of NATO countries in Lisbon, Portugal, where the administration hopes to introduce a timeline that calls for the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO forces from Afghanistan by 2014, the year when Afghan President Hamid Karzai once said Afghan troops could provide their own security, three senior officials told McClatchy, along with others speaking anonymously as a matter of policy. The Pentagon also has decided not to announce specific dates for handing security responsibility for several Afghan provinces to local officials and instead intends to work out a more vague definition of transition when it meets with its NATO allies. What a year ago had been touted as an extensive December review of the strategy now also will be less expansive and will offer no major changes in strategy, the officials told McClatchy. So far, the U.S. Central Command, the military division that oversees Afghanistan operations, hasn't submitted any kind of withdrawal order for forces for the July deadline, two of those officials told McClatchy."
Obama officials moving away from 2011 Afghan date
McClatchy, 9 November 2010

"In a shocking indication of a split between the White House and the Pentagon over the war in Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Robert Gates believes that the U.S. military will never leave the war-torn country. During a dinner hosted by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for Afghan President Hamid Karzai in May, Gates reminded the group that he still feels guilty for his role in the first President Bush's decision to pull out of Afghanistan after the Soviet withdrawal in 1989, according to Bob Woodward's new book, 'Obama's Wars.' And to express his commitment to not letting down the country again, he emphasized: 'We're not leaving Afghanistan prematurely,' Gates finally said. 'In fact, we're not ever leaving at all.' Woodward notes that the group was shocked by the blunt comment: 'At least one stunned participant put down his fork. Another wrote it down, verbatim, in his notes.'"
Robert Gates: 'We're Not Ever Leaving' Afghanistan
Huffington Post, 29 September 2010

"Bob Woodward's new book exposes deep divisions between a cast of senior White House figures. The book, titled Obama's Wars, depicts the President as a 'professorial' figure who assigned 'homework' to his aides but bristled at attempts by his military advisers to persuade him to commit more troops to Afghanistan. The President is quoted as saying 'I have two years with the public on this' and 'I can't lose the whole Democratic party'. Woodward says he pressed advisors to provide him with a swift exit strategy. Obama rejected the military's request for 40,000 troops as part of an mission with no foreseeable end. 'I'm not doing 10 years,' he is quoted as telling Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at a meeting in October 2009. 'I'm not doing long-term nation-building. I am not spending a trillion dollars.' After agreeing to commit 30,000 troops in a short-term escalation, the President reportedly told aides: 'This needs to be a plan about how we're going to hand it off and get out of Afghanistan. Everything we're doing has to be focused on how we're going to get to the point where we can reduce our footprint. It's in our national security interest. There cannot be any wiggle room.' Woodward says Obama is constantly barraged with warnings about the possibility of terrorist attacks on US soil. During an interview in July, the President said: 'We can absorb a terrorist attack. We'll do everything we can to prevent it, but even a 9/11, even the biggest attack ever . . . we absorbed it and we are stronger'. Relations between Obama and Gen. Petraeus, then chief of the central command region that included Iraq and Afghanistan, deteriorated after the President rejected his repeated requests for more troops, Woodward claims. Gen. Petraeus is quoted as saying military chiefs should 'get more time on the clock' in Afghanistan, and then being told by a senior advisor: 'That's a dramatic misreading of this president.' Woodward quotes Gen. Petraeus as saying: 'You have to recognize also that I don't think you win this war. I think you keep fighting. It's a little bit like Iraq, actually. . . . Yes, there has been enormous progress in Iraq. But there are still horrific attacks in Iraq, and you have to stay vigilant. You have to stay after it. This is the kind of fight we're in for the rest of our lives and probably our kids' lives.'"
Obama's Wars by Bob Woodward: the cast
Daily Telegraph, 22 September 2010

"One of Britain’s leading security experts warned yesterday that British troops were likely to have to commit to service in Afghanistan for as long as another decade. Sir David Omand, the former Permanent Secretary for Security and Intelligence, was chairing a session at a summit of chief executives organised by The Times that covered issues including public expenditure on defence. He said that business leaders believed that it was inevitable that the Armed Forces’ engagement in Afghanistan would be for the long haul.....The views of the business leaders over Britain’s potential long-term military commitment in Afghanistan stands in contrast to the policy position of David Cameron and President Obama. When the US President announced an increase in US troop numbers in Afghanistan, he also said that he wanted to start the withdrawal in mid-2011. Earlier this month, the Prime Minister indicated that he wanted Britain’s engagement in Afghanistan to have drawn to a close by 2015."
‘Armed Forces will be engaged for the long haul in Afghanistan’
London Times, 29 June 2010

"The United States ambassador in Kabul warned his superiors here in November that President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan 'is not an adequate strategic partner' and 'continues to shun responsibility for any sovereign burden,' according to a classified cable that offers a much bleaker accounting of the risks of sending additional American troops to Afghanistan than was previously known. The broad outlines of two cables from the ambassador, Karl W. Eikenberry, became public within days after he sent them, and they were portrayed as having been the source of significant discussion in the White House, heightening tensions between diplomats and senior military officers, who supported an increase of 30,000 American troops. But the full cables, obtained by The New York Times, show for the first time just how strongly the current ambassador felt about the leadership of the Afghan government, the state of its military and the chances that a troop buildup would actually hurt the war effort by making the Karzai government too dependent on the United States. The cables — one four pages, the other three — also represent a detailed rebuttal to the counterinsurgency strategy offered by Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top American and NATO commander in Afghanistan, who had argued that a rapid infusion of fresh troops was essential to avoid failure in the country. They show that Mr. Eikenberry, a retired Army lieutenant general who once was the top American commander in Afghanistan, repeatedly cautioned that deploying sizable American reinforcements would result in 'astronomical costs' — tens of billions of dollars — and would only deepen the dependence of the Afghan government on the United States. 'Sending additional forces will delay the day when Afghans will take over, and make it difficult, if not impossible, to bring our people home on a reasonable timetable,' he wrote Nov. 6. 'An increased U.S. and foreign role in security and governance will increase Afghan dependence, at least in the short-term.' An American official provided a copy of the cables to The Times after a reporter requested them. The official said it was important for the historical record that Mr. Eikenberry’s detailed assessments be made public, given that they were among the most important documents produced during the debate that led to the troop buildup. On Nov. 6, Mr. Eikenberry wrote: 'President Karzai is not an adequate strategic partner. The proposed counterinsurgency strategy assumes an Afghan political leadership that is both able to take responsibility and to exert sovereignty in the furtherance of our goal — a secure, peaceful, minimally self-sufficient Afghanistan hardened against transnational terrorist groups. Yet Karzai continues to shun responsibility for any sovereign burden, whether defense, governance or development. He and much of his circle do not want the U.S. to leave and are only too happy to see us invest further,' Mr. Eikenberry wrote. 'They assume we covet their territory for a never-ending ‘war on terror’ and for military bases to use against surrounding powers.'
U.S. Envoy’s Cables Show Worries on Afghan Plans
New York Times, 25 January 2010

"Head of the Afghan parliament's Justice and Judiciary Commission Ataollah Loudin told FNA that establishment of a US military and intelligence base in Afghanistan should not be viewed at national levels as Washington is in pursuit of regional goals. 'The US wants to establish a military and intelligence base in Afghanistan in pursuit of greater goals in the region which naturally include Pakistan, Iran, the Central Asian states, China and Russia,' he said. Meantime, the lawmaker warned that the move would result in negative outcomes for Washington. 'The US spying base in Afghanistan will be faced with the opposition of the regional states and the Afghan people, and this opposition will be harmful to the US.' The legislator underlined that the move would run counter to Afghanistan's independence, and stated, 'We will never permit a foreign state to have a permanent military and intelligence presence in Afghanistan.' Any foreign state willing to remain in Afghanistan for a long time will have a fate similar to that of Britain 90 years ago and Soviet Union 30 years ago."
MP: US Base in Afghanistan Established to Collect Intelligence on Iran
Fars News Agency (Iran), 5 November 2009


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